MADE by Jeff Beckham Jr.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of time working to become a better leader. I’ve studied other leaders, taken classes, and applied for and taken part in many leadership development fellowships that have helped me understand my personal leadership ability and some of the areas I need to develop. With all of the work, I have come to realize that becoming a better leader requires the same kind of deliberate action and practice that it does to become better at anything else. It takes practice and time and most importantly it requires a plan. Your plan doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t need to be overly verbose, but it does need to be focused and intentional.
Start With Why
Simon Sinek has a simple illustration for inspirational leadership. He starts with a golden circle and ask the question “Why”. At the center of the Golden Circle is WHY. The next concentric circle is HOW. And finally, the outermost circle is WHAT.
Most people can tell you the WHAT. They can describe what they do. Many other can share HOW they do WHAT they do their unique value proposition and their values. However, do you know your WHY — your purpose, your cause or what you believe? The WHY is what makes others care. John Quincy Adams said, “Leadership is not a title, it’s influence.” Others must care in order for you to influence them. Which means others must care for them to follow your leadership.
2. Determine Your Goals
After you’ve established your WHY then you must define specific goals. What are the outcomes and impact you’re seeking to have with your life, your work, and your effort? Creating 3 to 4 SMART goals related to your why will give you a solid foundation for your plan. Think of this as your life business plan and these goals are the supportive elements of your statement of purpose.
3. Create Measurable Steps to Achieve Your Goals With A Timeline
Remember the old children’s riddle? “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” You have to approach your goals in the same manner. You have to create action steps to achieve each goal with measurables to track progress and they have to be on a timeline. If your goal is to Get your Master’s Degree by 2023. One of your action steps may be. Prepare for and take the GRE by April 2019. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg says that you practice this chunking method with all goals and then reward yourself as you accomplish the smaller milestones. This will create good habits for you in the pursuit of your plan.
4. Get Feedback and Check Progress Against Desired Outcomes
Mentoring is essential to growth as a leader. Having a good mentor can be critical to your development as a leader and person. They can help you course correct when perhaps you are out of alignment and they can give you real-time feedback when you may need it the most. Chicago Scholars President and CEO, community leader, and 2018 Obama Fellow Dominique Jordan Turner always says “Feedback is love” and believes that is essential to practicing leadership and creating performance cultures.
After you get feedback on your plan then spend time doing an assessment on how you are tracking toward your goals. You can ask others to help you with this or spend time doing this on your own but it’s important to make sure you do this.
5. Be Agile With Your Plan —
Agile is a project management methodology used to build software. It uses incremental, iterative work sequences that are commonly known as sprints. It revolves around an idea that you build something, test it with users, deploy it and iterate (version 1, 2,3 … think of a mobile app) to make it better. I’m encouraging you to treat your leadership plan in the same fashion. After you get feedback and counsel, assess your progress toward your goals, and notice a misalignment or that you’re off track don’t’ hesitate to adjust or iterate on the plan to get to where you want to be. Be kind to yourself and give your space room to grow and change. Remember, a failure to plan is a plan for failure.
Jeff Beckham Jr. is Vice President of Career and Leadership Development for Chicago Scholars, a youth advocate and community leader from Chicago.